Ambassador Spotlight | Tom Smartt

Ambassador Spotlight | Tom Smartt

Hometown: Idaho Falls, ID


Q: What’s your climbing Style?

A: I like techy routes and knee bars. haha


Q: What is your proudest accomplishment in climbing, and outside of climbing?

A: Breaking the 5.14 barrier was huge for me. That goal fueled my climbing for years, yet in order to achieve it, I had to set it to the side and refocus to keep my climbing fun and healthy for me. I was very number driven and competitive at the start. I thought 5.14 would be some big, defining moment, but those routes came to feel just as important as any of my big sends, FAs, or wild adventures. I guess the number’s change in value helped me put climbing into perspective and taught me to enjoy it on a deeper level.

Outside of climbing?

That one is harder to define. I guess it’s that I’ve been able to live my life the way I want to. I’m very fortunate, for sure, but I’ve also worked hard and sacrificed when necessary to allow myself to have big life goals and to focus on accomplishing them.

In both cases, I hope my proudest accomplishment is still yet to come.


Q: What advice would you give to your first year climbing self?

A: Follow your psych, set big goals, and own what you do. Also, no one cares how hard you climb.

Rock Climber Tom Smartt

Q: Who do you take advice from and why?

A: Aside from my father, my primary mentor in climbing and life is Matt TeNgaio. I wish I could be more like him, but I’m not sure I could pull off his tattoos. He taught me how to climb, how to bolt routes, always kept my head in check and given me his honest opinion.


Q: How has your training for climbing changed in the last year?

A: I’ve done two different approaches to physical training this past year, not necessarily of my own design. One worked very well for me, and the other, the seemingly better one, just left me injured and not climbing. The biggest challenge for me is injury prevention. I often have problems with my lower back (I’m pretty tall) that cause me to overcompensate elsewhere and trigger overuse injuries.

The program that worked best for me involved a fairly structured approach to climbing (either a targeted 5 pitch day or a time-based bouldering approach), and then a Tabata style workout on non-climbing days. The Tabata was 4-5 exercises long and alternates one minute on, one off, 4 times per exercise (with the freedom to modify the exercise as necessary). Then we’d throw in a single recovery focused yoga session each week. At first, I didn’t like the non-climbing day’s sessions, but over time I ultimately realized how beneficial that part is to the whole.

I worked as a coach and spent a lot of time analyzing how myself and others climb. I feel I’ve learned more about climbing in the past of couple years than all of my years climbing beforehand. That’s probably been the biggest help. It’s not always about becoming a stronger climber, the focus really is to become a better climber. I could for sure benefit from more strength, but I’m often too tall to use the conventional beta, so I have to be creative to climb a route. I quit caring so much about things that got me down in climbing (like onsighting/flashing,, or counting tries in general) and I’m quicker to haul up the stick clip and actually work out a section efficiently. I get some strange looks from people about this approach, but this game can be played in a lot of ways! I also stopped besieging projects for months on end. Instead, I shift focus after a while and go back later with fresh psych and determination.

Rock Climber Tom Smartt

Q: How has climbing affected the people you choose to surround yourself with?

A: A lot of my friends aren’t rock climbers. In general, though, the people I’m closest with are all passion driven and have these big goals set for themselves.

I’m also a big fan of board games, especially the ultra-nerdy ones. I spent a winter hanging out with folks at a game store and playing 40k (I have a pretty rockin’ Tzeentch Daemon list). I felt really out of place at first, but regardless, we were all united in how much we enjoyed the vastness of that mythical universe and the strategy involved in that game. I would love it if some of my climbing friends would be up for a weekly D&D game!


Q: What have you done to give back to the climbing community?

A: I’ve held a few fundraisers to buy fixed gear, I’m on the board of directors of our local climbing coalition and I’ve tried to do my part to bolt routes in Idaho. I didn’t have even half the playground of hard routes as a kid as Eastern Idaho has now. I try to do what I can, where I can, and wish I had the means to be more helpful.

Rock Climber Tom Smartt

Q: What have you learned from failure?

A: Failure is a wave that will hit constantly. It’s just part of any cycle of progression. It’s tough to do, but you just gotta collect what valuable lessons you can from that wave, and then let it go back into the ocean.


Q: Who are the climbers that inspire you the most, and why?

A: I guess, collectively they’re all folks who climb because they love it so much. It drives their adventures, and they work hard to improve their craft. There are several individuals of note to me, like the late Inge Perkins, or Jonathan Siegrist, Matt TeNgaio, Ty Mack, Ciara Rinaudo, Chad Parkinson, Ben Spannuth, Clay Cahoon; all of whom have been big inspirations to me over the years. The list could go on and on, but I’d be typing for a while. Haha.

Rock Climber Tom Smartt

Q: What is your favorite climbing location, and why?

A: My home crag: The Fins. It’s spectacular and overlooks a vast volcanic desert, dotted with secret government laboratories. It’s always windy and has no amenities. It blazes in the sun each morning, so you have to chill out and relax. You could almost just not rock climb, set up your camp chair and just stare off into the distance all day. That said, the climbing is great. There are a lot of multi-directional pockets, small crimps, and horrid footholds and the routes present fun puzzles to decipher. I’ve spent years bolting routes out there, and every year I find more.


Q: Why Butora Climbing?

A: They make some great shoes! But also, everyone I’ve met either from the Butora family could be one of those inspirational people that climb because they truly love climbing.

Rock Climber Tom Smartt

Q: What are your favorite before and after climbing meals?

A: If I send, I want a pizza! Haha! I subsist off of tacos and coffee otherwise.


Q: What is your spirit animal?

A: A dragon? I dunno, I’ve always loved dragons (I always picked Charmander…). They’re badass.


Q: What differences have you found in climbing Narsha versus climbing in Acro?

A: The Narsha took a minute to get used to. It’s a stiffer shoe, and despite it looking like a bouldering slipper, it excels at vertical sport climbing. Overall, I prefer a slightly softer shoe for most climbs, but the Narsha has opened up a much easier sequence on my multi-year vert/slab project. Size them up a half step from the Acro!

Rock Climber Tom Smartt

Q: What are some tips you would give to new outdoor climbers about crag etiquette?

A: I dunno, I think this goes along the lines of being respectful and aware of other people and taking personal ownership of the balance between your fun and everyone else’s. I think we all struggle with this one from time to time, whether we are new outdoor climbers or not.


Q: Tips you would give to someone who is stuck on their project? How do you stay motivated when you are stuck?

A: I am for sure one to set up shop on a mega project and try a route ad infinitum, but I notice a lot of folks who try something a few times and then give up and say they couldn’t do the route. Instant gratification is great, but it’s not a project unless it challenges you! It’s crazy how moves feel easier each day/week/whatever on a route. Break the route into mini goals. If I walk away with even just a slightly better understanding of my project than I had before that session, even if I regressed in other ways, I call it a success.

Rock Climber Tom Smartt

Q: How have you overcome fear in climbing (fear of falling, fear of failure, etc.)?

A: I deal with this all the time.

I put myself in positions where I’m going to confront things I “should” be able to do. I don’t always like it. It’s not comfortable. It frustrates me and hurts my self-esteem, but if I don’t make the fear a norm then I’ll never push past it.

Check out our next Ambassador, Irene Yee

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